WASHINGTON, SEPT. 30, 2009--"The Gulag Collection," 50 compelling
paintings of life and death inside the Soviet Union's notorious
prison camps, will be on view at The Heritage Foundation beginning
today. The exhibit opens as part of "The
Year of Miracles: The Fall of the Berlin Wall," an event
at the leading Washington think tank to mark the approaching
20th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet
Gulag survivor Nikolai Getman created the acclaimed paintings,
an unparalleled visual record of the Soviet penal camps that held
more than 14 million political prisoners -- many of whom died in
captivity or upon release.
Getman began painting the scenes in secret once freed in 1953
after eight years' forced labor in Siberia and Kolyma. His own
crime? He'd been in the company of a fellow artist who had mocked
Stalin with a tiny drawing.
Getman devoted decades to putting his nightmarish yet strangely
uplifting evocations of the Gulag on canvas. When he died in August 2004 at age 86, he left behind
images of communism's cruel inhumanity that he
hoped never would be forgotten.
"Heritage is proud to sponsor the first public display of these
poignant, often shocking paintings in more than a decade," said
Heritage scholar Lee Edwards, one of the organizers of the
Getman's paintings have been called the visual counterpart to
dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn's classic memoir, "The
Gulag Archipelago," notes Edwards, who was the driving force behind
the nation's new Victims
of Communism Memorial.
Heritage will keep Getman's haunting work on public view weekdays during the runup to
the anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall on Nov. 9, 1989. The
collection has been on view in Washington only once before -- for
five days in July 1997, in the Russell Senate Office Building.
Edwards said Heritage, which acquired the Getman paintings from
the Jamestown Foundation, hopes to find a permanent
owner and exhibit space for "The Gulag Collection" and other
artifacts of the horrors of communism.